Sunday, May 30, 2010

Amazing CBC Podcast on Oil Spills

EDITOR: If you didn't catch this interview when it aired on CBC Radio's "Sunday Edition" on May 30th, please listen to the podcast. It's an amazing and damning indictment of oil companies in their handling of oil spills by an obviously well-informed and dedicated individual. Just click on the link, below. l.p.

Guest host Helen Mann; 

Hour One: Life After an Environmental Disaster - What Can the People of Louisianna Learn from the Exxon Valdez? - Riki Ott heard about the BP rig and headed straight for the Louisiana coast. She's a marine toxicologist and an environmental activist. And she wanted to share her experience and expertise with those who live and work on that coast, and provide some advice on the challenges they face. In our first hour, Dr. Riki Ott will also tell us those things.

Click here, then follow the links.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

More on Boreal Forest Agreement

Response from Canadian Boreal Initiative Re: My Concerns about the 'Boreal Forest Agreement' (Peter Miller)
Clearcutting in the Duck Mtn.
by Mary Jane Eichler
Dear Larry,

Thanks for writing back regarding some of my concerns regarding this agreement. I will share your response with others who have similar concerns. I did include a link to the leaked version of the agreement in my email to everyone so they would have an opportunity to see everything in context and make their own judgment. As you may be aware, there is now a longer version of the agreement now on the internet at:

Since this agreement has implications for all Canadians and Indigenous Nations, I was surprised that none of the signatories to this agreement posted the entire agreement (including all associated schedules and maps) on their websites. It is sad that it was only made public through a leak to the Vancouver Media co-op after they were refused a copy of it by signatories to the agreement.

It is too bad that Indigenous Nations were not significantly consulted on this agreement before it was signed. Please see the 'United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People' Articles 32 and 37 in particular:

This lack of involvement, consultation and respect when the agreement was initially being discussed has upset many Indigenous People. What Indigenous community would sign onto a 'done deal' they had no significant part in right from the start. For that matter, what ENGO would sign onto a deal like that other than the ones who signed it.

The fact that the details of the agreement were not seen by most people until it was leaked and already a fait acompli has upset many people as well.

One big question I have is about Domtar who did not sign onto your agreement, Domtar has a pulp mill at Dryden Ontario which continues to poison Grassy Narrows First Nation. Here's what they are presently releasing into the air, land and also the waters of the Wabigoon River: Obviously not the best ecological practices on the part of Domtar!

Who supplies the chips to Domtar's Dryden pulp mill so they can continue poisoning Grassy Narrows? Could it be Weyerhaeuser or another of the signatories to the Boreal Forestry Agreement? If so, perhaps you can persuade the forest industry signatories to your agreement to stop supplying woodchips to that mill if they are indeed doing so? Also, how about the other signatories to your agreement? Here's what Howe Sound Pulp and Paper dumps on a regular basis: Where do you think the Boreal forests are going? Partly into Pulp and Paper Mills which spew this stuff all over the environment. This couldn't be good for the caribou or anything else that lives. Especially the people who eat those caribou. Does your agreement even consider the pollution your partners produce?

Anyway, I've mainly worked on pollution/health issues over all these years. I hope you will consider what I have said as I will consider what you have said here more carefully.

One thing you are probably not aware of is that Suncor Energy Inc., who is a member of the council of your group 'Canadian Boreal Initiative' is presently releasing 51.136 kilograms of mercury from its smokestack at Fort McMurray. That's huge! They have no plans to even reduce that amount, in fact, they plan to increase it to 65 kilograms of mercury releases into the foreseeable future! :
This certainly won't be good for communities like Fort Chipewyan who have found mercury in their fish now. Learn from the experience of Grassy Narrows:

If people are a bit reluctant to make peace treaties with these multinationals, perhaps it is because of their continued poisoning of the earth and of all of us. Anyway, all the best to you.

For Land and Life,
John H.W. Hummel


If the ENGO's in your new coalition endorse and promote forest products from the boreal forest being sold (by your new forest industry partners) without considering all the pollution your new friends are causing by producing those products, and the ill health this pollution is doing to land and life then, your agreement can rightly be called 'Green-Wash'. It is wonderful that your forest industry associates will try and improve their clear-cutting practices to try and let some of the Caribou live but, what will they do to curtail all their pollution??! Does this new Boreal Forest Agreement do anything about that? Does it even figure into all this 'Eco-Friendly Branding' you and your ENGO partners have committed to participate in with FPAC (Forest Products Association of Canada)? I am also very concerned about the herbicides and pesticides these forestry companies are spraying on the forests in large quantities.

----- Original Message -----
From: Larry Innes
Sent: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 8:45 AM
Subject: Re: "Details Devil" Forest Agreement

Dear John:
Several people that we both know and respect have forwarded your "Details Devils Greenpeace Forest Deal" note on the recent Boreal forest agreement, seeking my views. I thought that it would be best to share them directly with you, in the expectation that we'd be able to narrow the range of issues on which we may disagree.
As one of the folks involved in hammering out the understanding with the FPAC companies which led to the agreement, I'm well aware of the gamble that the organizations that have chosen to participate in this truce are making. But I want to underscore at the outset that this is a truce--not a surrender.
Entering into this agreement wasn't a decision that anyone made lightly, or without regard to the potential risks involved in abandoning old but reliable approaches. However, we believe there has never been a better time than now to try to take another path towards achieving goals that we have long shared, including demonstrably improved ecosystem-based forest practices, habitat protection for critical species, recognition of the role that Boreal forests play in climate regulation, real prosperity for forest dependent communities, and respect for Aboriginal peoples as decision-makers over their lands and resources. We are committed to trying to advance respectful dialogue on these issues together with industry as an advocate--instead than as an opponent--of positive change, in the belief that governments--especially Aboriginal governments--will be willing to listen and to act on our best advice.
You've expressed particular concerns about the potential for divide-and-conquer strategies to play out in this new approach, and I admit that I share your concerns, but on different grounds. Every progressive movement lives in a tension between the perfect and the good, and I know that we've both seen situations where this tension could not be resolved, and where bitter disputes over the right path forward have divided communities and support movements in irreconcilable ways. I'm all for discussion on the relative merits of different approaches, but I think that it is fair to examine each carefully, and in light of what each side intends. To that end, I'd like to offer the following comments on your commentary:
First, it is important to put the CBFA in proper context. It is an aspirational agreement, based on voluntary commitments between participants and a number of goals which will require a great deal of goodwill and hard work to achieve. It is not legally binding on anyone, even those participating in the agreement. It doesn't compel anyone to do anything against their own interests, and it will either succeed or fail based on the degree to which the trust and commitment that has been developed thus far between participants carries forward over the next few years. Most significantly, success under the agreement ultimately requires actions by others, most notably provincial and Aboriginal governments, who we hope will come to share the goals identified in the agreement and will see value in working with us to help achieve them.
Now on your specific points:
1) The map you've circulated isn't part of the agreement, and was only prepared as background information. Much of the CBFA is concerned with actions on existing FPAC member tenures. The 'commercial forestry zone' was presented as context for situating those FPAC member tenures within the much larger area of land which has already been tenured or otherwise allocated by provincial governments for commercial forestry. The CBFA does not (and could not) designate a 'commercial forestry zone', but all the participants are very mindful of the fact that there is commercial forestry being undertaken on lands and by parties who are not part of the agreement, and are committed to raising the bar for forest practices across the entire boreal.
2) On quashing boycotts and other actions taken by groups outside of the CBFA, I do not share your view that this agreement will prevent such actions from occurring or undermine them in any significant way. There is a clear understanding on the part of the FPAC members that companies outside of this process are subject to continued pressure from the participating market campaign groups, and that everyone is subject to actions taken by those outside of it. If anything, this will assist groups to more effectively contrast bad practices by non-participating companies against the new commitments being made by the FPAC members under this agreement. Where such actions target FPAC members, the CBFA will create new leverage, as FPAC companies can now be held to higher standards on long-contentious issues, ranging from environmental performance to respect for Aboriginal and treaty rights. The agreement provides new mechanisms where participating ENGOs working inside the process may in
fact be helpful to groups outside of the process, which may lend strength to our collective efforts.
3) On recruiting others to become "bound" by the agreement: the CBFA is a voluntary agreement between stakeholders (forest companies and ENGOs), not a land use policy or framework endorsed by governments. While we hope that others will join, and have made provisions for other ENGOs and forest companies to 'sign on' to the CBFA in support of the specific goals and a program of work that it sets out, we did not envision that governments (including Aboriginal governments) would do so. We understand that our role is to offer policy advice and to demonstrate to governments that practical, broadly supported outcomes are possible through voluntary and collaborative measures, in the hope that governments will respond by adopting them. Whether they do so or not is ultimately a decision that they must make, whether individually within their jurisdictions or through own government-to-government processes.
4) On associates and allies being bound by this agreement by virtue of "membership or otherwise": Obviously, third parties cannot be bound, particularly by a non-binding, voluntary agreement. However, everyone who is party to this agreement is involved in networks of relationships with members, shareholders, associates and allies that are not party to the agreement, but who may significantly influence either outcomes or perceptions. In order to build and maintain trust, we have agreed to work together and within our networks to try to build support for the goals and objectives of the CBFA, and to collaboratively address issues where they may arise. This is generally consistent with the idea of a truce, where there will be ongoing efforts to try to build a lasting peace through dialogue, but it is in no way a guarantee that others will not continue or renew hostilities.
5) The specific intent of the specific provision you've highlighted (Schedule A, Goal 6, s. 12, p. 38) is not to, as you suggest, enlist ENGOs as some kind of informant network for forest companies (which was frankly never suggested by FPAC and could not possibly have been agreed to by ENGOs) but instead to anticipate the possibility that an individual or organization closely associated with a participating ENGO or company would make a statement or take a position contrary to the goals and objectives of the CBFA on the market recognition of FPAC member products. This provision commits participants to engaging in dialogue on that issue in order to try to achieve a positive outcome in line with our overall objectives, even if that means admitting that we are wrong on a particular point.
There is another provision (s. 23, p. 12) entitled 'No Surprises' in which the CBFA parties agree to provide reasonable advance notice of activities (ie new advocacy campaigns) which may be sensitive in the context of the agreement, but only where possible and always with a view to resolving problems before they arise. The provision is also clear that information received in confidence (ie, from community or grassroots allies) is protected and will not be shared.
6) Implicit in your critique is the belief that ENGOs will now act against their own interests in order to secure this new relationship with the forest industry. I can guarantee that this is not the case. Remember, this is a truce, not a surrender. The agreement itself (CBFA s. 12, p. 9) is explicit in stating that "FPAC, FPAC Members, and ENGOs acknowledge that in seeking to identify outcomes that will engender broad based support, FPAC, FPAC Members, and ENGOs will each vigorously assert their interests and may not always be able to agree on outcomes that can be jointly supported - where this is the case they will pursue a positive and constructive approach to resolving disputes." From experience, I can say that this is a reflection of what has occurred over the past two years of discussion, and is a good indicator of what we can expect going forward.
In closing, I very much appreciate the validity of your fundamental concern--that this agreement could undermine grassroots struggle. If I believed that was the case, I would not have taken this path, as I recognize that grassroots struggle as a critical driver for change. What I hope this will achieve instead is a new bar by which forest practices and company commitments can be measured and held to account by local communities and others concerned about the fate of the forest. If some companies prove to be intractable, even as the rest of the industry moves ahead of them, I believe this agreement will help in holding them to account.
I'd be pleased to discuss this with you in greater detail, and look forward to your response.
Larry Innes
Executive Director
Canadian Boreal Initiative
402-30 Metcalfe St., Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5L4

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

End of Alaotra Grebe is Further Evidence of Sixth Great Extinction

By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
Wednesday, 26 May 2010 - the Independent

Species are Vanishing Quicker Than at any Point in the Last 65 Million Years

BFN Does Not Support New “Canadian National Boreal Forest Agreement”

For Immediate Release - May 26, 2010

“This agreement is not transparent, does not include the involvement of governments, nor First Nations and the boreal forest is still at risk,” said Susanne McCrea, Executive Director of the Boreal Forest Network.

The agreement really does not protect woodland caribou, as it only defers logging and road construction in 72,205 ha over the next two years and not the supposed 29 million hectares that the signatories told the public, on May 18th.

The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, signed by Canadian forest products companies and several prominent environmental groups, will make it more difficult for ENGOs to effectively campaign against large scale resource extraction by the Canadian forest industry and sidelines Indigenous Peoples rights to plan, manage and control activities on their traditional territories.

A leaked copy of the full agreement can be found at:
also see the follow story:

The groups who signed the agreement are: The Canadian Boreal Initiative, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Canopy, David Suzuki Foundation, ForestEthics, Greenpeace, The Nature Conservancy, Pew Environment Group International Boreal Conservation Campaign, and Ivey Foundation

Susanne McCrea
Boreal Action

Glyphosate Tolerant Crops Bring Diseases and Death

ISIS Report 26/05/10


New research reveals disastrous ecological impacts of the world’s top herbicide and GM crops made tolerant to it. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Brett Cherry

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Leaked Copy of the Boreal Forest Agreement

----- Original Message -----


Please distribute widely!

39 page agreement marked "Confidential" available for download

(Please note pages 38-39)

by Vancouver Media Co-op

The Vancouver Media Co-op has received a leaked copy of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, which was announced yesterday in Toronto.

Click here to download the 39 page agreement, which is marked "confidential." Note that the attachment does not include "schedules" including maps. We'll post it as soon as it becomes available.

Here is IEN on APTN National News last night responding to Agreenment:

Another story Re: the 'Boreal Forest Agreement':

Join the IEN Newsletter!
Clayton Thomas-Muller
Indigenous Environmental Network
Canadian Indigenous Tar Sands Campaign
294 Guigues Ave.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
K1N 9H8
Home Office: 613 789 5653
Cell: 218 760 6632
Take Action Right Now! Go to:
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"It don' take a whole day to recognize sunshine..."

Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis Now at Record Levels - WHO

In some areas….

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Open Letter Supporting the Climate Change Accountability Act

The Accountability Act has already been given 3rd reading in the Commons. Below is a joint letter from a coalition of environment groups, urging the Senate to pass it, too. l.p.


*L'Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique (AQLPA)*Canadian Youth Climate Coalition* Climate Action Network Canada* David Suzuki Foundation* Forest Ethics* For Our Grandchildren* KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives* Equiterre* Living Oceans* Manitoba Wildlands* National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) * Nature Canada* Oxfam Canada* Oxfam Quebec* the Pembina Institute* Polaris Institute* Saskatchewan Environmental Society* Sierra Club Canada* WWF Canada *

May 6, 2010

Dear Senators,

The climate crisis represents the most urgent challenge of our time. Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases is essential to avoid catastrophic changes in our climate that threaten millions of people with drought, famine, extreme weather events and rising sea levels. By acting decisively to reduce its emissions, Canada can also be a leader in energy conservation and clean, renewable energy. We can ensure our economy remains strong and competitive. You have an historic opportunity and responsibility to tackle this issue which is now before you.

We are asking all Parliamentarians to join together to ensure that Bill C-311 (The Climate Change Accountability Act) becomes law. Bill C-311 will ensure that Canada follows the best scientific analysis of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change by setting science-based targets to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, and by requiring effective accountability measures to meet those targets.

Passing this crucial legislation will send a clear message to the world community: Canada is prepared to show leadership in tackling climate change. We can protect our children and grandchildren from catastrophic changes and embrace opportunities in the clean energy economy of the future by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We hope you will take action now to ensure that Canada plays a leading role in stopping dangerous climate change and making the global transition to a low-carbon economy.


Graham Saul
Executive Director
Climate Action Network Canada

On Behalf of:

Nitrate Contamination Spreading in California Communities

May 13, 2010 | Julia Scott - California Watch

The water supply of more....

Editor's Note: Are factory farms rearing their ugly heads again? l.p.

Sweet Success for Kit Kat Campaign: You asked, Nestlé has Answered

Greenpeace - May 17, 2010

A big 'Thank You' to...

America's Climate Choices

National Research Council of the Academies - US - May 21 - 2010

Strong Evidence on Climate Change Underscores Need For Actions

Editor's note: Needless to say, our mainstream media are once again ignoring or playing down this important new report, opting instead to faithfully record every burp and fart on the stock markets, no matter how insignificant. l.p.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

US Farmers Cope With Roundup-Resistant Weeds

By WILLIAM NEUMAN and ANDREW POLLACK New York Times - May 3, 2010

DYERSBURG, Tenn. — For 15 years...

A flax crop (blue) invaded by "rogue"
(resistant to Roundup) canola (yellow)
on the Canadian prairies.
l.p. photo

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Ecosystem in Peril after Gulf Oil Spill

By Matthew Cardinale - IPS

ATLANTA, Georgia, May 14, 2010 (IPS) - With engineers giving a...

Pests Bite Back at Genetically Modified Cotton

14 May 2010 - Bob Holmes, consultant -NewScientist

Wipe one pest out and...

What If BP Were A Human Being?

Wed, 05/05/2010 — Bruce A. Dixon - Black Agenda Report

What if BP, the principal corporate...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Are Pesticide Regulators on theTake?

Canadian Authorities Refuse to Protect Precious Pollinators From Known Toxins. Is Something Crooked Going on Here?

by Larry Powell

Nothing smacks of collusion between government officials and the agro-chemical industry, quite like the current crisis facing the world’s pollinators.

For years, scientific research teams both far and near, have been documenting dwindling numbers, even extinctions, of several populations of pollinators like honey bees and bumble bees.

Scores of reputable groups, including The Canadian Pollination Institute (CANPOLIN), the Xerces Society and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in the ‘States, are all sounding the same alarm;

“The diversity and abundance of insect pollinators are in a global state of decline. This decline represents a serious threat to the integrity of natural ecosystems and the production of many crops.”

Xerces has been devoted to preserving habitat for invertebrates since 1971. It stresses, the importance of these wondrous creatures is not to be underestimated.

“Bees are undoubtedly the most abundant pollinators of flowering plants in our environment. The services that bees and other pollinators provide, account for over 30 percent of the foods and beverages that we consume.”

One of those crops is apples. (See my short video of apples in a Manitoba orchard, below. Could they really become a thing of the past, too? Seems unthinkable, doesn't it?)

So Who or What is to Blame?

Many culprits are suspected in the deaths of pollinators. They include mites, pathogens, habitat loss, diet, stress and climate change.

But, for years, a common thread has woven its way through the scientific studies; several pesticides used by conventional farmers and beekeepers to control crop pests and mites which prey on the bees.

According to NAS, these products “Kill or weaken thousands of honey bee colonies in the US each year. Pesticides can potentially harm many bee species and even eliminate some pollinator populations in ecosystems.”
While it cannot be proven conclusively, NAS says pollen from genetically-modified crops may even be affecting the “behaviour, physiology and reproduction” of honey bees and even the quality of the finished product, honey!
None of this has prevented millions of acres of farmland from being sewn each year to GMOs. On the Canadian prairies alone, GMO canola is so dominant it has wiped out the market for organic farmers by contaminating their fields with its pollen.
(And, oh, by the way, GMO corn, sugar beets, soy, alfalfa and possibly even wheat, also, are either here already, or are ready to be rubber-stamped for approval by our “regulators.”
Xerces calls certain insecticides “highly toxic to bees” and blames them for “most of the bee poisonings in the Pacific Northwest.” (Both US & Canada.)

In 2006, one product blacklisted by Xerces, chlorpyrfos (Lorsban) was used to combat an outbreak of bertha armyworms in canola crops in western Manitoba. It was sprayed in huge amounts from the air over a vast area near Roblin and Swan River. It even made some people sick. (True to form, nothing was done about that.) Needless to say, its impact on pollinators was neither considered beforehand, nor investigated afterward.

In 2008, another product singled out by Xerces, clothianidin, killed billions of honey bees in Europe. After that, several countries banned or suspended its use there. But not Canada.

Here, it is commonly used to treat canola seed. Scientists call it a “systemic” poison, which gets into all parts of a plant, including the pollen and nectar. (The bulk of honey produced here in Manitoba comes from bees that forage on canola.)

Then, a couple of years ago, our regulators added insult to injury. They licensed yet another, similar product, spirotetramat (Movento). Beekeepers fear it is even deadlier than its predecessors! (See Manitoba Co-Operator, Oct. 9-’08, “New Systemic Insecticide Worries Beekeepers.”)

In the US, a judge recently ordered spirotetramat removed from the market. But not in Canada.

Then, last summer, the Monsanto Corporation helped write another sad chapter in this sordid tale.

Monsanto and its co-inventor, Dow AgroScience, announced the arrival of a new GM crop in Canada and the US, “SmartStax” corn.

It contains a witches brew of additives including cleverly-manipulated genes and clothianidin, one of the most notorious bee-killers in the chemical-makers’ arsenal.

The government’s Food Inspection Agency authorized its release without even conducting an environmental risk assessment. Neither Health Canada nor its “Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency” bothered to look into any impact the new product might have on human health or safety.

In so doing, they violated the spirit of “Codex,” an international food safety treaty which Canada helped to negotiate.

Codex warns that “unintended effects” may arise from consumption of products made the way “Smartstax” is made, and ought to go through a full safety assessment.

So What is Going on Here?
Might the giant chemical companies actually be greasing the palms of bureaucrats and even their political masters to get them to do their bidding?

I have no idea. And I’m not saying that they are. What I am saying is, what other explanation makes sense? Why is no one stepping up to explain this baffling, misplaced loyalty to the corporations rather than to we, the people who elect our policy-makers?

After all, if there is something crooked going on, it wouldn’t be the first time.

A few years ago, the US government sued Monsanto $1.5 million for trying to bribe Indonesian officials to license its GMO cotton in that country.

In the 1990s, Monsanto actually offered Health Canada a bribe of up to $2 million to approve its bovine growth hormone here. It was rejected, but only after senate hearings and serious accusations from government scientists who actually had a conscience. They complained they were being pressured by their bosses to fast-track approval of the hormone, despite evidence that it was harmful to both cattle and humans.

My own province, Manitoba, concedes that “certain bee species are declining.” But, in an email from a provincial environment official, I was told that, “a lack of information on most species makes assessing their conservation status difficult if not impossible.”

Difficult if not impossible? With a defeatist attitude like that, what hope is there?

Some three weeks ago, I asked my own Member of Parliament, why chemicals harmful to pollinators keep getting approved. He still hasn’t answered!

He did, however, vote the other day in the Commons with most of his government colleagues, against a private members bill. If passed, it would force the government, before rubber-stamping any more GMO crops, to think about how farmers’ pocketbooks might be hurt if other countries won’t buy those crops. Not surprisingly, the biotech industry is strongly opposed to the bill, also.

(Keep in mind GMOs lead to more pesticides use and, of course, more bucks for the corporations.)

If the industry truly believed the propaganda it spews out, that it works “with nature” and for “sustainable agriculture”, it would surely put an immediate halt to the production of these evil concoctions.

While all the pieces of the "pollinator-decline" puzzle have yet to be found, is enough not known about the role of pesticides to act, either by banning or replacing the worst offenders? Call me crazy, but would this not remove at least one barrier to finding a solution?

Meanwhile, Canada’s PMRA clings stubbornly to its denial line. In a recent message to me, the agency insists Movento, specifically, underwent "rigorous scientific review" and was shown to pose "no unacceptable risk" to humans, the environment, or bees!

Few people would be so naïve as to think that pollinators are the only creatures in mortal danger on this planet. Smarter people than I claim we are now living through the worst era of mass extinction since the dinosaurs! But, if the prospective loss of pollinators, which help us produce the very food we need to survive, does not move us to action, what the Hell will?

Might now be the time for a judicial inquiry to shake some answers loose?

As long as our government officials believe all they have to do to explain this outrageous behaviour is to utter empty “don’t worry, be happy” platitudes, I believe that it is!

I am retired middle level federal public servant. It is a well-known fact that Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) has no labs of its own and fully depends on research data provided by the industry. The PMRA is paid in excess of $8,000,000 annually for registering pesticides and any inconvenient data may be withheld from the PMRA. The industry's studies submitted to the PMRA deal exclusively with rats and rats have detoxification genes missing in humans. The PMRA is very weak in examining human, i.e. epidemiological studies. Thus PMRA's alleged evaluation (rubberstamping!) of pesticides s is not to be trusted. In addition, the PMRA is often behind in evaluating pesticides and allows use of pesticides prior to the completion of the evaluation process. (By the way, the process on comment moderation here is outrageous. Even numbers are shown in such a way that it is impossible to decipher them. No wonder there are no comments! Obviously, whoever is in charge doesn't want any comments, i.e. is a friend of the corporations that kill our bees.)

Alta. County Calls Disaster as Storms Kill Calves

Manitoba Co-Operator - Staff - 5/13/2010

What began as a....

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Great Debate Over Air Quality in the Swan Valley Reaches a Climax

by Larry Powell

(This story also appears in the current issue of Canadian Dimension magazine.)

Bill Blaikie is about to go through a bit of a “baptism by fire” as Manitoba's new Minister of Conservation. He will soon need to decide whether to order Louisiana Pacific Canada Ltd. (LP) to restart the pollution control devices it shut down at its wood products plant near Minitonas, in the Swan Valley over a year ago. If he does that, he will be throwing down the gauntlet to LP to make good on its threat to shut the whole plant down, dealing a body blow to the local economy.

Or he could grant the corporation’s request for a permanent decommissioning of the devices. If he does that, it could mean more harmful industrial pollutants will continue to be released into the atmosphere than at any time since the plant opened, with the controls operating, in 1996. Not only that, he would almost certainly incur the renewed wrath of individual citizens and environmental groups who believe the absence of controls is harming air quality, to some extent for Minitonas residents, but especially for those living even closer to the plant.

In its application to the government, LP said harsh economic realities were forcing it to cut costs. It reports its sales have been slumping thanks to the sub-prime mortgage meltdown in the US, where it sells much of its product.

The plant turns out oriented strand board (OSB) a type of paneling used in house construction.

OSB is made from compressed hardwood and wood chips sealed together with toxic bonding agents.

The company claims the aging control devices, called Regenerative Thermal Oxidizers, or RTOs, cost $3 million dollars a year to operate and will soon have to be replaced, at a cost of another $10 million. It calls them “a burden that will threaten the competitiveness of our operations.” (Other devices known as Wet Electrostatic Precipitators, (WESPS), help control particulate matter coming from the plant. LP has kept the WESPS running and plans to continue to do so.)

If the government requires it to start the RTOs up again, however, the company warns it may have to shut down the entire plant, . "Throwing hundreds of staff, contractors and log handlers out of work for an indefinite period."

On January 9th, 2009, apparently taking that threat seriously, Blaikie's predecessor, Stan Struthers, quietly said "yes" to LP’s request to temporarily decommission the RTOs.

Then, in March, after an uproar from critics, Struthers instructed the Clean Environment Commission, (CEC), an arms-length advisory agency, to conduct an investigation into the merits of LP's application. In July, the CEC heard witnesses both for and against that application.

The CEC was originally supposed to make its recommendations to Mr. Blaikie last fall. But it announced it would need extra time to consider additional evidence from the company. So those recommendations are not expected now until some time this spring.

Is There Evidence of Harm to Human Health?

Perhaps not surprisingly, the evidence on this question is conflicting.

The corporation told the CEC, a health risk assessment showed that, even without RTOs, the threat to the public ranged from zero to negligible.

But Dan Soprovich of Concerned Citizens of the Valley (CCV), strongly opposed to LP’s application, claims otherwise. He told the same CEC proceeding , a huge American study had established a link between formaldehyde in the atmosphere and ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. (Formaldehyde is one of the pollutants, which the plant produces.) Soprovich claimed three people have died of ALS within 10 miles of the plant since it opened.

Given local populations, he claims that is more than 11 times the national Canadian average.

So Just How Much Pollutant is Being Released?

According to Charles Simon of the Florida-based company, Precision Analytical Laboratories Inc., the amount is substantial.

He is one of three independent experts hired by Concerned Citizens of the Valley, the Boreal Forest Network and Manitoba's Public Interest Law Centre.

These experts examined the claims made and methods used by LP to support its application.

Dr. Simon estimates, a fully operational mill, without controls, would put more than 1,000 tonnes of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) into the air in one year. That's more than 40 times what it would have been, had the controls remained online. VOCs include cancer-causing substances such as formaldehyde.

Simon further calculates, without the RTOs, the mill would annually release almost 400 tonnes of another family of emissions, Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPS) in a year. That's 100 times what would have been the case had the controls stayed in place. HAPS include pollutants such as benzene, said to cause cancer and birth defects.

Is There a Win-Win Solution to All of This?"

Dr. Simon believes there is. He says hundreds of devices known as bioreactors are already being used successfully around the world to control industrial emissions.

He believes bioreactors might not only provide the best control technology available for the mill, they’d cost about the same or less than would new RTOs. And operating costs would be about one quarter of what they would otherwise be.

LP has reminded the public on several occasions that, when they were operating, the RTOs used to produce 12,000 tonnes of harmful greenhouse gases annually. That's because they burned large amounts of natural gas to incinerate the pollutants.

Dr. Simon concedes that this is true. But, he counters, bioreactors, don't create greenhouse gases at all in their operation. (He also suggests they may even be able to do the job of the WESPS, saving the company even more money.)

As CCV puts it, "This technology (bioreactors) can greatly reduce greenhouse gases and operating costs while effectively controlling the toxins and other pollutants. It would address the environmental, social and economic elements of this issue."

How Have Politicians Handled Things?

The Insight this issue has provided into the way our political system works, is, to some observers, the stuff of "Political Science 101.”

Back in the mid ‘90s, before being elected to the legislature, Stan Struthers was an active member of CCV, which was lobbying hard for RTOs. (Some even say he came up with the group's name!) Fast-forward to last year, when he became the Minister who let LP shut them down. (After that, Struthers was appointed as the Minister of Agriculture.)

When LP’s application to build its OSB plant was first being discussed, Rosanne Wowchuk was an NDP opposition critic, representing Swan River (which she still does), the riding where the plant is located. The Conservative government of Gary Filmon was serving its last term.

Like Struthers, Ms. Wowchuk also spoke out strongly for RTOs both at a formal CEC hearing and even in the legislature. So she and Struthers both may have been instrumental in having them installed in the first place. Since the NDP came to power, Ms. Wowchuk has served as Agriculture Minister, Deputy Premier and now, Minister of Finance.

This begs the question, what has changed in the past 15 years or so?

Neither Mr. Struthers nor Ms. Wowchuk has responded to my request for

comments. All Mr. Blaikie will say is, he’ll await the CEC's recommendations before

taking any action.

While the politicians may argue they are simply protecting jobs by making sure LP

continues to operate, others believe the corporation’s threat to shut down is an

empty one.

In a letter to the local paper, CCV wrote, this (economic argument) “contradicts reports about LP on the internet.” It says the corporation actually plans to expand business in the UK, Australia and Japan “as part of a concerted campaign to grow market share and capitalize on the retreat from the market by one of its competitors, Weyerhaeuser."

At the time of his report last fall, even Dr. Simon took note of how LP stocks were rebounding in value after being hit by the recession.

Meanwhile, it’s to be hoped those CEC recommendations, expected soon, may shed some light, not just more heat, on the situation.


Please also read - "Standing the Precautionary Principle on its Head."

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